Dosed: The Medication Generation Grows Up

A new book challenges conventional wisdom regarding the use of prescription medications to treat anxiety, depression, and behavior problems in the United States. Kaitlin Bell Barnett’s new book, Dosed: The Medication Generation Grows Up, asks a series of uncomfortable questions about the long-term consequences of our culture’s increasing dependence on psychotropic medications.

According to the book, 25% of college-age young people in the United States are currently prescribed a medication designed to regulate their mood, focus, attention, or behavior. The book examines the ethical and philosophical implications of our culture’s reliance on pharmacological solutions to psychological, social, or behavioral problems.

Are chemical solutions the right solutions? Why has the medical establishment moved so quickly in the past decades towards developing and prescribing neurochemical solutions to life’s problems? What does this say about our culture?

Steps to a Depression-free Mind

Can you imagine living in a society that was virtually free of depression? Certain societies such as the Kaluli people of Papua New Guinea and the American Amish populations both essentially have zero depression rates. Depression has become a byproduct of our modernized, industrialized, and urbanized lives. While we have become accustomed to a highly technologically evolved society with the gadgets, gizmos, and comforts we love, we are also seemingly on a never-ending treadmill of overworking, under-sleeping, and hyper-stressing in order to live the “American Dream”.

By incorporating several simple lifestyle changes into your everyday living can help you minimize the effects of stress and depression. Common variables practiced by the Kaluli and Amish people include: eating an omega-3 rich diet, getting ample sleep every night, regular daily exercise, getting plenty of natural sunlight, being involved in some type of social activity with social connections, and practicing meaningful tasks all help these populations divert attention from your own negative thought processes that can lead to depression.

The holiday “blahs”

With the holiday season and winter months fast approaching, feelings and symptoms of depression will often surface or increase. Feeling “down in the dumps” or “blah”, sad, discouraged, hopeless, irritable, cranky, or easily frustrated are typical symptoms of depression. Also feeling withdrawn, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite, sleep, energy, difficulty concentrating, and making decisions are commonly reported. A sense of feeling worthless or excessive guilt may be experienced. Some of these feelings may actually interfere with our relationships, school, job, social activities, and even day to day functioning. If you experience a few or most of these symptoms it is wise to pay attention to what your body is telling you and to take care of yourself.

Often people minimize or don’t understand depression and the possible effects of going untreated. Working with a mental health professional can help you understand depression and learn multiple ways to manage its symptoms. Regardless of the season, feeling better means living better!

 

Erika McCaghren

Therapy: the natural cure

Doctors are very quick these days to prescribe psychotropic medications to relieve the symptoms of anxiety or depression. A psychotropic medication is a drug that acts on the chemistry of the brain to change a person’s perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior. These powerful medications have the ability to change how someone thinks, feels, or acts. They are the favorite tool in many health professionals’ tool-kits. For example, 25% of college-age young people in the United States are prescribed a psychotropic medication.

Therapy is a natural alternative treatment for anxiety, depression, and other difficulties. Often individuals enter therapy while taking an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. However, therapists do not prescribe drugs; they talk and they listen. They use evidence-based therapeutic techniques to help individuals understand themselves, their problems, their feelings, and their relationships in a way that improves their lives. A therapist can help you discover the root cause of depression or anxiety. If change is needed, a therapist will guide you through the process.

But the change will come from you. The insight will come from you. Therapy believes that you hold the key to unlock the mysteries of yourself. Solutions are not given to you (in pill form, or otherwise), they come from you. When you have come to understand your own strengths, you will be truly healed.

 

Feel Better, Live Better

We all have many “wants” in life – but most of us share one simple “want” in common: Happiness.

It’s a lifetime quest for many, especially here in the United States. Americans, ironically, number among the most anxious people in the world. We tend to view happiness as an art, the result of luck or sheer willpower. Meanwhile, many of us live with an angry lion perched right outside our door.

Anxiety may be easier to spot in others. When it comes to ourselves, we may chock it up to insomnia, irritability or poor health. But it’s important to know that about 1 in every 35 people in the United States experiences generalized anxiety, according to annual diagnosis rates.

That’s a lot of unnecessary suffering, and it’s also important to know that there is nothing wrong with you if you do live with anxiety.

Anxiety is a normal, primal human response. It’s an instinct that kept our ancestors safe from predators and empowered them as they protected the most vulnerable members of their families.

We’ve come a long way since then, but our brains and our bodies don’t know the difference. Modern-day life can leave you feeling as if that angry lion is perpetually ready to pounce.  Today, we may not experience that as conscious fear. We’re more likely to describe it as stress, nervousness, embarrassment, poor planning skills, emotional pain, obsessive thoughts, pounding heart, headaches, sweating, difficulty swallowing, muscle tension, persistent worry, an inability to relax or trouble sleeping.

Few people experience all of the above. But for many of us, the lion is just outside the door when it comes to work, health, finances, marriage or our children.

While we know the ancient origins of anxiety, the reasons we experience it today are very individualistic but rather straightforward. Genetics, childhood experiences and traumatic events can each lead to anxiety – in the moment – or later in life. For some people, one factor is enough to trigger anxiety. For others, it may be all three.

Of course, we all know people who are seemingly immune to anxiety, regardless of life circumstances. We admire their emotional strength and society holds them up as heroes. Because of that, many of us who live with anxiety instead deny it even to ourselves – or live with it in shame and in secret.

There is an option: Anxiety is highly treatable. Among the first steps are to recognize it, stop resisting it and accept it – to accept ourselves.

You are not to blame for how you feel. Our lives truly are increasingly chaotic and demanding, with Americans working longer hours than ever in competitive atmospheres that can destroy confidence.  Do you have family members who deal with nervousness and anxiety? That could be an indication of a family history. And of course, if you experienced trauma and did not have the opportunity to deal with it, it may be dealing with you.

Research has found that therapy is the most effective solution to anxiety because it goes beyond treating the symptoms and identifies the causes. It is tailored to the individual and comes with lifelong benefits: building coping and problem-solving skills, finding balance, developing relaxation techniques – and it is achieved in a supportive and accepting environment.

As a therapist, I have treated anxiety for decades and have found that a genuine, warm, collaborative atmosphere results in a sense of empowerment, clarity and a path forward. It is a privilege to be invited into someone’s process of healing and change – and together – learn what anxiety is saying to us and what it has to teach us.

Don’t let that angry lion pace outside your door. You have the power to send it away and to live a productive, anxiety-free life – a life you can describe, quite simply, as “happy.”

 

Sharon Nelson, LCSW

Helpful tips for handling the holiday “blahs”

Are you noticing your body slowing down as the holidays approach? Are you unsure of how to cope with these feelings and symptoms? Make sure there is not a physical or medical explanation for your depression. If your body isn’t feeling “right”, talk to your doctor. Treat your body the way it deserves and needs to be treated by eating healthy, getting enough rest, and regularly exercising. Taking a few moments to focus on your breathing is an easy and effective way to help your mind and body to relax, and can be done anywhere. Pull yourself into the present and take in the gifts that are around you now. Notice the sunshine, a beautiful bird, a cloud, or another gift of nature. Listen to the music or sounds that you “connect” with. A walk or change of scenery can bring newness into your surroundings. If possible, do something nice for another person, even if it is only to smile or greet them. Sometimes the simple, small steps we take make can make a big difference.

 

Erika McCaghren

Depression is the flaw in love

“Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair. When it comes, it degrades one’s self and ultimately eclipses the capacity to give or receive affection. It is the aloneness within us made manifest, and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself.

Love, though it is no prophylactic against depression, is what cushions the mind and protects it from itself. Medications and psychotherapy can renew that protection, making it easier to love and be loved, and that is why they work. In good spirits, some love themselves and some love others and some love work and some love God: any of these passions can furnish that vital sense of purpose that is the opposite of depression.” Andrew Solomon.

The Search for happiness

TED.com pioneered the digital presence of speakers on a world stage, to your own computer, tablet, or smartphone. Happiness and people’s perception of happiness is a hot topic of discussion today. How we each choose to pursue and believe in our own happiness is an ever-changing process of growth, introspection, and inspiration. Below are videos from TED Talks about three people’s very different views of happiness and how one can practice happiness daily.

#1: Matthieu Ricard – The Habits of Happiness
Ricard discusses navigating what some call “the dirty work of happiness” and how happiness is an attitude that can be found from within oneself, regardless of the outer experiences of life.
http://www.ted.com/talks/matthieu_ricard_on_the_habits_of_happiness.html?embed=true

#2: Neil Pasricha – The Three A’s of Awesome
Blogger of 1000awesomethings.com, dedicated to celebrating the simple things in life tells his personal journey with the three A’s of awesome: attitude, awareness, and authenticity.
http://www.ted.com/talks/neil_pasricha_the_3_a_s_of_awesome.html?embed=true

#3: Matt Killingsworth: Want to be happier? Stay in the moment
Killingsworth discusses his research into the mental state of everyday people and when they are happier. He talks about his findings that when a person’s mind wanders, people tend to be less happy.
http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_killingsworth_want_to_be_happier_stay_in_the_moment.html?embed=true

 

“May you be well. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering.”
–traditional Buddhist prayer

 

Erika McCaghren

Love yourself enough to seek help with addictions this Valentine’s Day

There is no doubt that substance abuse and addiction is difficult during every season of the year. Once the rush of the holiday season, balancing work and holiday time off, and a long few days of travel to see friends and family is over; all that is left is getting back to ‘normal’. January is a month full of change and resolutions, so making time to cope with personal hardships (like addiction and substance abuse) is put at the bottom of your to-do list. As February approaches, the usual hustle of preparing for a magical and romantic Valentine’s Day for you and a significant other, spouse, or partner takes priority. This reveals the real question: is there ever time to get help for myself?

Realizing that you are important enough to get help is the first step on your journey to navigate out of the dark path of addiction and substance abuse to a healthier life. The problems associated with addiction and substance abuse seem to start out slowly and pick up speed in what seems like no time at all. Using and abusing substances affects your life, the life of your friends, family members, children, co-workers, and everyone else you interact with on a daily basis. What began as a coping method for stress or an activity during your downtime quickly becomes a lifestyle and the center point of many more problems. To take charge of the cycle of use and abuse of drugs and alcohol is often the hardest part of the recovery and healing process; and takes courage and support. The process of recovery requires resources to get the help that you need in order to control the substances that have a strong grip on your personal life. Mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment are the vital next steps in the process of your recovery. Overall, wanting to live your life as the healthiest and most well person you can be is reason enough to seek help for addictions for the holiday of celebrating love. Loving yourself enough to get help is a magical and romantic thing that can give you back a healthy fresh start to your relationship with yourse

Erika McCaghren